In ‘Dancing in the Water,’ Wayne Ewing captures a one-of-a-kind swim

By Andrew Travers – The Aspen Times

November 20, 2015

On film, endurance athletes often come off as stoic, tough types — turned quiet, often boring, by all the hours and miles they’ve logged. But Boulder-based swimmer Matt Moseley wants his aquatic feats to be more exuberant, more like carnivals — they’re part Mardi Gras, part Burning Man, with musical accompaniment and historic swims as their centerpiece.

When Moseley — a Louisiana native — became the first person to officially swim across Lake Ponchartrain in New Orleans last year, his support team included two boats filled with an eclectic and artistic cast of characters. The 84-year-old jazz and folk legend David Amram, who has collaborated with the likes of Dizzie Gillespie, Jack Kerouac and Thelonious Monk, played and composed music on a keyboard all night and through the pre-dawn hours. New Orleans guitarist Papa Mali and conga player Uganda Roberts hopped on board for a morning shift and brought the swimmer to shore with “Iko Iko.” Moseley’s Burning Man friends made a surreal merman sculpture to follow him on the water. Author and former Aspenite Curtis Robinson was on board as an official observer.

Local filmmaker Wayne Ewing was on board, too, documenting Moseley’s swim and the music and mayhem for what would become his new documentary “Dancing in the Water.”

“Being from New Orleans, you can’t just go swimming,” Moseley says in the film. “You’ve got to make it a moveable, fun experience.”

Matt Moseley Swimming Lake PontchartrainMoseley hops in the water shortly after 9 p.m. and crawls on shore (just after an alligator does) on the other side of Ponchartrain, 25 miles and 15 hours later, greeted by a cheering crowd and a bottle of Champagne. As Moseley makes his way from shore to shore, the 85-minute film captures performances on the water of songs like “Go Down Water” and “I Shall Not Be Moved” and a string of improvisational Amram pieces composed on the spot about the swim (including the jazzy call-and-response number “Dancing in the Water,” which gave the film its title).

Ewing’s film and Moseley’s swim also celebrate the lake itself, highlighting the efforts that have cleaned it up and, in recent years, made it swimmable. Ewing sketches the lake’s history, and its degradation through six decades of shell dredging that continued until the practice was halted in 1992. Dr. John pops in to recall its dirty days as a trash dumping ground and as a make-out spot for local teens. John Lopez, of the Lake Ponchartrain Basin Foundation, explains the water quality issues and the lake’s recovery over the past two decades.

“I think it’s crazy,” Papa Mali quips in the documentary, referring to the long swim. “But I think it’s a beautiful thing that everybody knows they can get back in the water out here.”

Ewing, based in Carbondale and best known for his films about Hunter S. Thompson, went on the water with Moseley not expecting to have a feature film on his hands. “He asked me to just film this event, which I agreed to do, and it was so interesting that it became a movie for me,” Ewing said in a recent interview.

The pair met through Thompson in 2001, when Moseley helped organize a rally with Thompson on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver, calling for the release of Lisl Auman, a young woman wrongly convicted of felony murder and sentenced to life in prison. Thompson’s crusade to get Auman out of prison was later the subject of Ewing’s 2007 film “Free Lisl” and Moseley’s 2010 book “Dear Dr. Thompson.” Moseley also served as a Thompson family spokesperson and for the production of the writer’s 2005 memorial service at Owl Farm in Woody Creek (also the subject of a Ewing Film: “When I Die.”)

Ewing began filming “Dancing in the Water” in Aspen in late 2013, when Moseley spent time training in the outdoor pool at Aspen Meadows.

The following spring, Ewing accompanied him on a tour of Lake Ponchartrain, to learn more about the health of the lake and related coastal restoration issues. In June 2014, they returned for the big swim.

The film proved a test of endurance for the musicians and the filmmaker as well as the swimmer, Ewing recalled. He started setting up his filming rig on the support boat at noon, nine hours before Moseley hopped in the water and about 24 hours before he stopped filming.

“It was the hardest shoot I’ve done in my life,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been on the road with The Eagles. I was Hunter Thompson’s road manager. And this was the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done.”

The moment when Ewing realized he had a feature documentary on his hands came around dawn, eight or so hours into Moseley’s swim, when Amram stepped away from the keys, pulled out a Native American flute and began serenading the swimmer and his crew.

“Every film I’ve ever made, I have a moment of real electricity and magic that’s happening right in front of me and I’m lucky enough to capture it,” he said. “If that doesn’t happen, then I know I’m in real trouble. That moment, at 5 a.m. on the lake with the sun rising and moon setting and David Amram playing his flute, I thought, ‘This really is magic.’ Maybe I was just sleep deprived, but I think the film testifies to its magic.”

“Dancing in the Water” lets that moment, and many songs, play out in full. Now available on DVD, the film premiered earlier this year in New Orleans during its Jazz and Heritage Festival, where Ewing got many pats on the back for not chopping up the performances.

“I let the music really play, which you would normally never do in a movie and in this sound bite culture,” he said.

Ewing is currently at work on a film about polo, returning him to the equestrian subject matter of his 2013 feature “Playing with Magic.”

Last year, Moseley also swam the Colorado River from Moab to the Green River and from the Caribbean island of Culebra to Puerto Rico — both also to raise awareness about water issues. The trio of swims has earned him a nomination for Performance of the Year from the World Open Water Swimming Association. Moseley will be in Aspen to discuss his swims and conservation efforts at an American Rivers event at the Gonzo Gallery on Dec. 11.

Ewing admits now that he was doubtful Moseley would make it all the way across Lake Ponchartrain, but was pleased to be proven wrong.

“What he produced out there in the middle of the night and in the blazing sun was amazing,” he said. “What Matt achieved is unbelievable.”

READ THE FULL STORY AT: In ‘Dancing in the Water,’ Wayne Ewing captures a one-of-a-kind swim

Tammany Tracker: ‘Dancing in the Water’ to make a splash

Film festival features documentary about man who swam across Lake Pontchartrain in 2014

November 3, 2015

When Matt Moseley dove into Lake Pontchartrain on June 14, 2014, he had no idea how much his swim would affect the community. All he knew was that if he made it to the other side, he would become the first person to swim across Lake Pontchartrain following the World Open Water Swimming Guidelines.

Moseley’s swim is only part of the story told in the documentary “Dancing in the Water,” debuting on the north shore this weekend at the fourth annual Pontchartrain Film Festival.

“I hope people are inspired by the act of the swim and the accomplishment,” Moseley said.

It took Moseley 15 hours to complete the record-breaking swim. But the challenge was about more than a record. Moseley was supporting the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation and its efforts to clean up Lake Pontchartrain.

“I wanted to swim (across the lake) because I thought it was a great way to show people that the lake has come back, that it has recovered,” said Moseley, who grew up in Louisiana.

Moseley’s treacherous night swim became the narrative for Wayne Ewing’s documentary “Dancing in the Water,” which also focuses on the recovery of Lake Pontchartrain over the past 25 years and the importance of maintaining a clean, healthy lake.

Moseley’s swim avoided the boring stereotypes of most long-distance swimming events by adding live music from local music legends. The open-water swimmer was accompanied throughout his swim by the sounds of New Orleans blues artist Papa Mali, conga player Uganda Roberts and composer David Amram.

“The music is fascinating,” said Moseley, adding, “It is very powerful in helping to tell the story.”

Moseley will return to Mandeville this weekend for the screening, the first time he’s been back since he completed the swim last year. He currently lives in Colorado. The film shows at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Mandeville Trailhead.

READ THE FULL STORY AT: Tammany Tracker: ‘Dancing in the Water’ to make a splash

Pontchartrain Film Festival Opening: Dancing In The Water

By World Open Water Swimming Association

October 21, 2015

The Fourth Annual Pontchartrain Film Festival will be held on November 6th-7th. It opens with a free, outdoor screening of Dancing In the Water at the Mandeville Trailhead Amphitheater.

Dancing In The Water is a feature-length film that follows Matt Moseley’s 25-mile swim across Lake Pontchartrain. A boat with music legend Dave Amram, Uganda Roberts and Papa Mali accompanied Moseley.

The heart of the documentary is truly about the recovery of the lake, with music, told through swimming,” Moseley said who completed a series of three open swims in a lake, ocean and river. His second was a 24-mile swim in the ocean to protect the coral reefs off the Isle of Puerto Rico, and the last in the trio was 47 miles down the Colorado River. “I’m just a regular guy with a family and day job who swims.”

Moseley will be joined by John Lopez of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation for a Q&A session following the film. Moseley’s swim marked the 25th anniversary of the efforts of the Foundation to clean up the lake. All ages are invited to bring chairs to watch the movie under the stars and experience the documentary by award-winning filmmaker Wayne Ewing.

For information, visit

READ THE FULL STORY AT: Pontchartrain Film Festival Opening: Dancing In The Water

Matthew Moseley Interview on KUVO 9-11-15


A Masterpiece Of Marathoning And Melody

By World Open Water Swimming Association

June 10, 2015

The history of open water swimming is filled with colorful characters and powerful personalities. The sport of swimming from shore to shore is filled with pioneering men and women who challenge themselves to overcome the vagarities and dynamics of the open water.

These heroes and heroines of the marine world are uniquely talented and relentlessly driven individuals, each of whom puts their own spin and legacy on the sport.

There is one contemporary swimmer who stands out for his uniquely joyful approach to the sport.

Matthew Moseley combines the physical toughness of an endurance athlete with the right-brain creativity of an artist. Dancing In The Water combines the human drama of distance swimming with the joy of music and the beauty of art, leading to a masterpiece that is greater than the sum of its parts.

To purchase the documentary film DVD, visit here.

READ THE FULL STORY AT: A Masterpiece Of Marathoning And Melody

17578394-mmmainFilm premiere at Prytania to chronicle successful swim across Lake Pontchartrain

By Todd Masson, | The Times-Picayune

April 22, 2015

Dancing in the Water, a film about an historic swim across Lake Pontchartrain, will premiere next Wednesday (April 29) at a special event at the Prytania Theatre.

Produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Wayne Ewing, Dancing on the Water follows Louisiana native Matt Moseley’s successful attempt in June 2014 to swim 25 miles non-stop across Lake Pontchartrain. According to the film, it was the first documented crossing of Lake Pontchartrain following English Channel rules and World Open Water Association guidelines.

The effort was designed to bring attention to the vastly improved water quality of the coastal bay.

READ THE FULL STORY AT: Film premiere at Prytania to chronicle successful swim across Lake Pontchartrain

View photos of the After Party

matt finishDancing In The Water: Swimming As Art

By Michael Patrick Welch, NOLA

Wednesday night turned into Thursday morning on June 12th as Matthew Moseley continued swimming toward the Mandeville bank of Lake Pontchartrain. In between, on either side of sunset, upon the support boat, a band led by Papa Mali churned out a blues soundtrack for the 47-year-old Moseley, who would soon join a short list of swimmers to ever cross all of the lake’s 25 miles.
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Music Moving Moseley

By World Open Water Swimming Association

Listen to the music that pulsates throughout the documentary film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley‘s unprecedented 25-mile 14 hour 55 minute crossing of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana here.The music of David Amram, Papa Mali and Alfred Uganda Roberts played all night and morning long as he swam across the world’s largest estuary.
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Man swims 25 miles across Lake Pontchartrain

By Heather Nolan, | The Times-Picayune

After almost 15 hours swimming across Lake Pontchartrain, Matthew Moseley crawled onto the shore in Mandeville, then stood and threw his arms in the air in celebration. By the time he reached the north shore of the lake Thursday (June 12), Moseley, 47, had completed a 25-mile swim on his own.

Man completes 25-mile swim across Lake Pontchartrain

By Channel 4WWL –

NEW ORLEANS — A Lafayette man finished his 25-mile swim across Lake Pontchartrain, making the solo swim from the West End lighthouse to Mandeville overnight.

Beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday, 47-year-old Matt Mosley arrived on the northshore of Lake Pontchartrain just before 12 p.m Thursday. The aquatic challenge was to highlight restoration efforts by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.

He Made History! Moseley Swims Across Lake Pontchartrain


MANDEVILLE, La. (WGNO) – It took him a little longer than he predicted, but Matthew Moseley is back on land after successfully swimming across Lake Pontchartrain.

Moseley followed the official English Channel rules for his 25 mile swim, meaning Moseley could not touch a boat or person during his swim along the Causeway.

Lafayette native completes 25-mile solo swim across Lake Pontchartrain

By Channel 3 – KATC

The man who swam the nearly 25 miles of Lake Pontchartrain in just under 15 hours just happens to be a Lafayette native.

Matt Moseley, son of the founders of T-Frere’s Bed and Breakfast on Verot School Road, returned to Louisiana from his current home in Boulder, Colorado, to raise money for the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, an organization he praises for its efforts to preserve a pollution-free and sometimes unappreciated aspect of New Orleans. The Foundation currently is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and Moseley credits the foundation–with campaigns such as “Save Our Lake”–for revitalizing the ecology of the lake and for cleaning up its pollution.

Man swimming across Lake Pontchartrain reaches north shore

By Fox 8 WVUE

Matt Moseley was swimming from the south shore to the north shore to celebrate the Lake’s recovery and honor the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation’s 25th anniversary.

The 47-year-old Moseley began his 26-mile swim at the new Canal Lighthouse with the wind at his back. His team cheered him along as he made his way across the water to the north shore.

Moseley has been training for the swim for the past six months. He was in the water for 15 hours, reaching his goal around noon on Thursday.
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Alligator pulled from Lake Pontchartrain

By Heather Nolan, | The Times-Picayune

AlligatorA crowd was gathering at the lakefront near the Pontchartrain Yacht Club at that time to watch Matthew Moseley end his 25-mile swim across Lake Pontchartrain. The recent heavy rains likely have contributed to alligators being found in unusual places, he said. McCrea said the gator in Lake Pontchartrain likely got there through one of the marshes off of the lake.